Transforming Communities

Keeping the Music Going in Care with the Musical Care Taskforce

The following meeting summary was written by Douglas Noble, LMN Strategic Director for Wellbeing and Grace Meadows, Music for Dementia Programme Director, Co-chairs of the Musical Care Taskforce

The Musical Care Taskforce

The Musical Care Taskforce aims to support and grow the use of meaningful person -centered musical care for people living with dementia and the people that care for them. It is a joint initiative led by Live Music Now and Music for Dementia, working in partnership with Playlist for Life, National Care Forum, Association of British Orchestras and the Care Quality Commission.

In difficult and challenging time for people living and working in care, we know that care workers are working very hard to make sure that people lead a full and varied life, that is meaningful and person-centred. Music has a key role in this, supporting people to thrive not just survive.

Those working in music provision to the care sector have also been working very hard; generating content and finding innovative ways to reach and work with people and settings, both online live and in person, albeit the latter is limited to outdoor activities (garden concerts) with the limitations on visits to care settings. The expertise, hard work and knowledge of care professionals brings this to life and connects it to a person-centred care and living experience.

This is all about hard work and collaboration, between both care and music professionals, as well as the people living in the settings, to make something that would or could not be achieved separately.

At the same time, it is very important to ensure that what is being created and offered meets the needs of the care sector and is useful and used. The Musical Care Taskforce wanted to find out more about this; how people are keeping the music going and what is working, to share practice peer-to-peer, to help it to grow, and ask what is needed in order to support it to carry it on.

We did this in two ways; we put out a Keeping the Music Going survey and we convened an open meeting on Zoom for music and care professionals  and organisation to explore this together on 20 October 2020. Below we share some of what we found out from those that contributed to the survey and the meeting.

On 20th October over 70 people joined the open meeting. Attendees included care workers, providers and settings, care sector membership organisations, musicians, music and health professionals and provider organisations, as well as people living with dementia. We like to think that it may well have been a unique gathering of this type, on this scale.

The meeting featured a presentation by Liz Jones National Care Forum, Policy Director, on the subject, which you can watch below.  Of course there was music and we shared the showreel of the LMNOnline film library, created especially for the care sector, which you can watch here.


How has the care sector been keeping the music going?

in both the meeting and survey. People talked about ways they are keeping the music going. These included:

There was lots of innovation and creativity and making the most of what was available and to hand. Watching recorded concerts by popular musicians Andre Rieu, Shirley Bassey & Tom Jones were mentioned, staff joining in and singing to well-known songs such as the Grease soundtrack. The takeaway headline: it’s about having fun, joining in and having a go.

At Park Avenue Care Home in London the LMN musicians from Ensemble Hesperi ran a live zoom residency  “I think music in any form is always a winner, whether with musicians coming to Park Avenue or now with live stream. It brings people together.”

Camerata in the Commmunity from Manchester told us about their Community Unlocked Voices  Online Choir for residents of Withernsea

Turtle Key Arts have been leading singing over Zoom with Young Dementia UK and University of Oxford students  Online performance in April

“The joy at the group being reunited as we all sang and danced in our living rooms was palpable.  A wonderfully, uplifting, positive story with a very human perspective. ”

Avon Manor care home sent us a lovely picture of staff and residents  enjoying music music together .

LMN musician Julia Tuner and the activities coordinator  from OSJCT  Monkscroft in Cheltenham told us about a pre-recorded interactive live music  session. “We found the video was really useful to use on a 1:1 basis, and this also enabled us to use the same video multiple times if we wished. It was wonderful way of using music in a meaningful way when group activities were not possible.”


What is needed going forward to keep the music going?

There was a lot of interest in both the survey and meeting  in finding out more about things that people had not tried before, such as staff learning more about making music with residents, creating personalised playlists with residents, joining in with  live online interactive music sessions led by musicians via Zoom or similar  and live streamed concerts on You Tube, Facebook or other .

There were strong but overlapping themes that came through as areas of need,  set out below:


Clear simple Information and guidance

People told us that the amount of information available online can be overwhelming and hard to navigate. There is a need for easy to access and  understand information and resources,  such as activity suggestions, as well as good communication and consultation  between music providers and care homes  to help them  in choosing what is right

There was also a strong request for clarity on  the risks in relation to cross infection from  singing . This was repeated many times. Although there is no definitive answer to this, or guarantee of how to avoid risk,  Music for Dementia,  Live Music Now,  National Activities Provider Association , National Care Forum and Care England have created a new document called Keeping Singing In Tune with Covid 19 Restrictions which offers considerations to take into account in risk management when deciding whether and how to sing.

Staff support, training and encouragement

People working in care found it helpful  to be reminded that we all have music in us and they have the ability to engage with residents, playing around with music themselves; they don’t always need someone to lead them online. “Lightbulb moment- it doesn’t matter whether my voice is good, it’s the interaction that matters.”

There is a need for support for the care workers in making the  interpersonal interaction between what is coming in on the screen and the people living in the settings, and to sustain practice and energy .

Care workers are keen to be shown how to lead music activities  and to be encouraged  to give it a go, to feel confident in using music,  but also to be seen as beneficiaries themselves of the music,  – supporting  their own wellbeing as well as that of the residents. There was a plea for management support from within settings and providers in the above;  buy-in, back-up and permission for the music  to be seen as core part of, and intrinsic to, their core care role.

Tech support, digital know how and equipment

It was very interesting  and encouraging to hear  how much progress had been made by many of the care workers who contributed, through necessity, in the face of Lockdown to get the confidence in using technology  and the  knowhow  to get online.  This is testament to the self-sufficiency, ingenuity and dedication  of care professionals adapting to challenging circumstances

This included using YouTube linked up with smart TVs, and watching Facebook live concerts, joining  live zoom activities  with a recognition  that  zoom provides a method of engagement beyond passive listening  . As well as using the latest tech., such as Alexa, there was an acknowledgement of the value of  using simple old-school methods such as CDs and  vinyl record  players .

We heard that technology is scary and unfamiliar to some people, and there is a  need for ongoing support,  including some real basics such as being able to identify what is  an HDMI lead, what equipment is needed,  as well as online  platforms and support for them to be able to help residents to independently use iPads and other technology.

Of course, there is the need  for good WIFI connections in settings, which is not always a given, as essential; poor/limited connections are a barrier to making the best use of tech, with resources available but inaccessible or unusable.

Prize Draw Winners!

To help keep the music going, we were very pleased to enter care settings and providers who completed the survey and attended the Open Meeting into a prize draw with the opportunity to win one of three musically related prizes, kindly donated by Sound Up, Playlists for Life and Live Music Now . The winners are as follows

  • Broadmead Rest Home – Informal onine concert with Sound Up;
  • Ashdene Care Home – Training session on creating a playlist of personal music with Playlists for Life; and
  • Runwood Homes – Online interactive live music concert with Live Music Now musicians .




A group of people in a recording studio, singing and clapping hands

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